2005 Salary Survey

Jul 01, 2005

You might call it the Cheddar Cheese theory of job survival. In his best selling book Who Moved My Cheese? that was published in 1998, Dr. Spencer Johnson used the parable of his characters' pursuit of cheese as a symbol of people's attitude toward changes in their lives -- especially in the workplace. The point of the story is that things change. They always have changed and always will. People's "cheese" gets moved and they have to adapt in order to search for new sources of cheese. Dr. Spencer emphasizes that, in order to be successful in your life and your career, you need to anticipate change, let go of the old, and willingly accept the new. Adaptability in life and in your job is the key to success and embracing change is an important key to happiness.

New Directions for the Environmental Profession
Certainly, the environmental industry has undergone some important changes in recent years. The respondents to our survey had many strong opinions about the turbulent times the environmental field is going through right now.

One respondent, a male regulatory compliance specialist who works in government in Helena, Mon., said, "The Iraq war and the resulting budget deficits are dragging down the U.S. economy. This results in less money available for both the public and private sectors to invest in nonmilitary areas like environmental protection."

A male division level manager who works in the utility field in Minneapolis discussed another emerging trend. He pointed out that now environmental professionals must balance handling "policy/risk management activities (Sarbanes Oxley) v. getting compliance work done."

Several respondents expressed concern about the increasing outsourcing of the manufacturing operations of U.S. companies. A male corporate level manager in the private sector in Greensboro, N.C. said, "Loss of manufacturing jobs to foreign competition will have the most significant impact on the industry over the next five years."

A number of other respondents mentioned that they were worried about a different type of outsourcing.

"One of the important trends affecting environmental professionals is U.S. companies outsourcing their safety and environmental programs to consultants. Companies need full-time safety professionals to provide oversight to their programs," said a female regulatory compliance specialist who works in government in San Diego, Calif.

Another respondent also commented about this development. A female consultant in a consulting firm in Los Angeles said, "Major companies are not staffing their smaller facilities, but instead are relying on consultants. Even though the billing rate is high, the salaries at the consulting firms appear to be less than what a major corporation would be paying."

Environmental professionals continue to wear multiple hats. According to a male regulatory compliance specialist who works for a utility in St. Petersburg, Fla., "The trend is to combine environmental and safety responsibilities, but with no increased salaries. Also bonuses are increasingly tied to business performance metrics that may not have a direct tie to environmental performance."

On an optimistic note, one respondent thought the overall graying of the environmental profession could lead to a boost in compensation for many new professionals entering the field. A male regulatory compliance specialist for a large distribution center in Torrance, Calif., said, "The salaries should be rising because of the retiring baby boomers like myself and the increasing need for high technology solutions for the future."

The Bush Administration's Impact on the Environmental Field
Of the more than 1,000 readers who responded to our survey, ten respondents were critical about President Bush's policies concerning the environment.

"The current national administration's reduction in regulations and enforcement are both factors in undermining the amount and technical level of environmental work, and thereby reducing demand for such work," said a male consultant who works for a consulting firm in Yorktown, Va.

Another respondent, a female division level staff member for a governmental agency in Arlington, Va., said "The White House gives environmental issues little regard. Big companies are given beneficial treatment while not adhering to rules to make the Earth a cleaner environment. Budgets have also been cut, making it difficult to do our jobs."

None of the respondents made favorable comments about the Bush administration's environmental positions. Along the same lines, none of our survey's respondents made positive statements about any other elected officials' environmental policies.

Increases in Minority Environmental Professionals
Most of our survey's respondents supported the idea that more "minorities" -- that is people who are not white males -- are entering our professional ranks. In particular, several respondents commented that the number of women and Hispanics definitely is increasing in the environmental profession.

In a different vein, a female scientist who works for a governmental agency in Indianapolis, Ind., said "Nontraditional minorities are entering this industry, e.g. East Indians and Asians. Science education is viewed favorably in these cultures."

Preparing for Changes Down the Road
In today's challenging business climate, it's important to have a career strategy. Many of our respondents offered advice concerning important trends that environmental professionals should pay attention to because future developments, hopefully, will generate large amounts of work for U.S. environmental professionals.

For example, according to a male corporate level manager in banking and real estate in Pittsburgh, Pa., "Green building design is an up and coming movement that the 'traditional' environmental industry has not focused on." Another respondent, a female environmental specialist who works for a governmental agency in Seattle, emphasized the new issues that will impact the environmental profession in positive ways include the following: "climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, management of greenhouse gases, our overdependence on fossil fuels, the need for solar energy, wind energy, and biodiesel."

A male engineer who works at a water treatment facility in Tuscon, Ariz., stated "Certainly there is a backlog in water/wastewater treatment infrastructure design and construction, which is awaiting funding." When the federal and state governments finally allocate funding for these projects in the future, the construction of these systems should translate into lots of jobs for civil engineers.

"Homeland security and its application to protecting facilities from acts of terror will continue to affect the role of environmental professionals," said a male corporate level manager at a recycling company in Columbus, Ohio. "More so in positions at power plants, pharmaceutical facilities, chemical plants, and oil refineries."

As far as regulatory compliance goes, a male engineer who works for a consulting firm in Ashburn, Va., pointed out that "The new 'all appropriate inquiry' (AAI) rule related to Phase I environmental site assessments may have a short-term impact as people become caught up in this regulation."

The growing globalization of the business world promises to have a dramatic effect on our profession. According to a male corporate-level staff member at a manufacturing facility in Troy, N.Y., "The environmental professional now needs to focus on the international trends of the European Union directives and those adopted by Japan and China. It is extremely important to learn about these directives -- the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), the Waste - Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), the End of Life Vehicles (ELV) and the Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) -- because they will affect American business."

The shift toward more U.S. companies doing business internationally, and the increased presence of Hispanics in the U.S. workplace, could lead to good career opportunities for environmental professionals who are multilingual. "Being able to communicate in several different languages is becoming a sought after skill," said a male regulatory compliance specialist in San Jose, Calif, who works for a governmental agency. Similarly, a male corporate-level manager who works for a manufacturing facility in Leesburg, Va., commented, "There is a need for environmental professionals to have a working knowledge of additional languages, especially Spanish, in order to communicate with the work force.

"I think more environmental professionals will need to link themselves to financial goals, such as best practices that save or make money," a male health/safety supervisor who works at a manufacturing facility in Deland, Fla., said. "We must find ways to turn our waste into cash when possible. We will be more valuable to our employers when we are seen as 'money makers' and not just as a cost center."

Overall, our readers' feedback about the current state of the environmental profession convinces us that, while many segments of the environmental market are slowing down or stagnant, other areas are growing and offer good opportunities for financial advancement. In the coming years, environmental professionals' success will be dependent upon their ability to master new job skills that are in demand in the changing workplace.

In short, it's time to start looking for new cheese.